Monday, March 22, 2021

'Real People': Sunday's Love Over Hate Vigil

Posted By on Mon, Mar 22, 2021 at 6:51 PM

The sun belied the chill on Sunday afternoon in the lot of the Humboldt Unitarian Universalist Fellowship in Bayside, some 200 people came for a walking meditation and vigil for victims of the March 16 shooting in Atlanta that targeted Asian women and took the lives of eight people.

In front of the closed hall, members of Humboldt Asians & Pacific Islanders (HAPI) in Solidarity who’d helped organize the event set out bottle of sanitizer, nametag stickers and origami cranes for visitors to pin to their coats. Patty Hecht rubbed her arms in the wind and explained the group had chosen the church grounds rather than the more visible Arcata Plaza in order to avoid potential conflict or harassment.

Days before, the press release announced, "The tone of the vigil is compassionate, peaceful, and respectful, to demonstrate support for Asians and Pacific Islanders against whom acts of violence have been increasing over the past year." The mood was indeed more one of solace than protest. (See the slideshow below by photographer Dave Woody.)

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Friday, March 19, 2021

Eureka Mayor 'Angry' About Alleged EPD Text Messages

Posted By on Fri, Mar 19, 2021 at 2:36 PM

Eureka Mayor Susan Seaman issued a statement this afternoon saying the text messages allegedly sent between Eureka Police Department officers that were released in a bombshell report from the Sacramento Bee earlier this week "are wholly unbecoming of any professional, or any decent human being for that matter."

"Public trust is hard to earn and easy to lose," Seaman said in the recorded statement. "People are angry and they should be. I'm angry. There is no excuse for the demeaning, disrespectful content reported to have been included in those messages."

Seaman reported that EPD the city has hired an "unbiased third party from outside the area" to conduct a formal internal investigation into the text messages, but said the city won't identify the investigator until their report is complete. The mayor said she expects the investigation to deliver answers quickly.

Earlier this week, EPD Chief Steve Watson said he's placed two officers on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation.

Relying on a text message thread between six officers provided to the newspaper by an anonymous source, the Bee named two officers — Rodrigo Reyna-Sanchez and Mark Meftah — as participating in the threads, which made fun of homeless residents, demeaning comments about women's bodies, threats of violence and disparaging references to a female colleague, while also referring to a former county health officer as a "bitch."

According to the Bee's report, when officers discussed a woman "who was known to shoplift and who also had a history of mental illness" and was walking through town, Reyna-Sanchez responded, "Get pics of her rack!!"

"Saggy ol udders," Meftah allegedly replied.

In another thread, Reyna-Sanchez allegedly updates his fellow officers on a police standoff with John Karl Sieger that ended with him being fatally shot after pointing a gun at officers, telling them Sieger "is at st joes with several extra holes in him!!" The Bee also reported other messages in which the officers allegedly joke about beating up protesters and "face shooting" a suspect released from jail after allegedly stealing a tactical vest of Reyna-Sanchez's.

Watson penned a letter to the community earlier this week denouncing the statements in the alleged texts, while the Eureka Police Officers Association issued a statement saying it "does not and will not condone violent, racist, sexist, or indifferent attitudes towards the community members we are sworn to protect and serve, or each other.
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Wednesday, March 3, 2021

Police Make DUI Arrest After Fatal Crash

Posted By on Wed, Mar 3, 2021 at 9:51 AM

The California Highway Patrol has arrested a 31-year-old on suspicion of felony driving under the influence after a fatal head-on collision on State Route 36 Saturday left a 61-year-old Blocksburg man dead, according to a press release.

Police report that Andrew Harmon was driving a Dodge 3500 eastbound on State Route 36 near mile post marker 15.5 when for unknown reasons it drifted across the center lines and collided head-on with a 2006 BMW driven by Marc Broussard. Broussard and his passenger, Kaylem Branson, 51, were transported with major injuries to St. Joseph Hospital, where Broussard died hours later.

Harmon allegedly left the scene of the crash prior to officers' arrival but was tracked down and arrested in Rio Dell.

The CHP asks anyone with information about this crash to call 822-5981.

See the full CHP press release here.
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Friday, February 12, 2021

Details Emerge in Triple Homicide; Loleta Community 'Heartbroken'

Posted By , and on Fri, Feb 12, 2021 at 1:43 PM

Mauricio Eduardo Johnson.
  • Mauricio Eduardo Johnson.
The 18-year-old Loleta man accused of fatally shooting three people — including a 16-year-old girl — at a home on the Bear River Band of the Rohnerville Rancheria Reservation on Wednesday morning was known to the victims and was a “guest in their house,” Humboldt County Sheriff William Honsal told the Journal this morning.

Deputies were called to the home in the 200 block of Carroll Road a little after 8 a.m. Wednesday, when a juvenile in the home called 911 to report a shooting. They arrived to find two people dead and a third with “serious injuries” who later died at a local hospital. Two children — 11 and 13, according to Honsal — were also found uninjured in the home.

The victims were later identified as Nikki Dion Metcalf and Margarett Lee Moon, both 40, and 16-year-old Shelly Autumn Mae Moon. Honsal said the suspect — Mauricio Edwardo Johnson — was a “friend” of the family and had a relationship with Shelly, though Honsal said their “exact relationship” remains under investigation. But he said Johnson had been given permission to be inside the house by “at least one of the residents” and the family knew he was in the house prior to the shootings.

Detectives, Honsal said, are still investigating a possible motive for the killings.

“It’s a tragedy,” the sheriff said. “Our hearts go out to the Bear River community and the Moon family. It’s just an absolute tragedy.”

The killings have had profound impacts on the Bear River and Loleta communities. Shelly and Margarett Lee Moon both worked at Loleta Elementary School as aides, tutoring students and working in the afterschool program.

"Loleta Union School District is saddened by the loss of two wonderful young women," the district said in a statement emailed to the Journal. "They graced us with their beautiful smiles and loving hearts. Their work with children was appreciated, they will be missed by everyone at LUSD."

In coordination with the Humboldt County Office of Education, the Bear River Rancheria, Two Feathers, Humboldt Bridges and SELPA, the district is offering counseling and support for anyone who needs it. Anyone wishing to access services or get more information can call 733-5705.

"We are a community and are here to help each other," the statement said.

Attempts to reach the Bear River Band of the Rohnerville Rancheria for this story were not immediately successful.

When deputies arrived at the scene of the shootings Wednesday, Honsal said they immediately recognized the gravity of the situation and called out the major crimes task force, which includes senior detectives and evidence technicians from a host of local agencies, all of whom “basically swarmed to the scene.”

Investigators got a “ton of community cooperation,” Honsal said.

“People came forward and gave us information,” Honsal said. “That ultimately led us to Mr. Johnson, the vehicle he was associated with and a likely destination.”

Investigators learned Johnson was traveling with his mother, Melissa Sanchez Johnson, and her friend, Von Keener, in a white Toyota Highlander, reportedly heading to a friend or family member’s residence in Indiana. Honsal said investigators wanted to act on this information before it became public — potentially allowing Johnson to change course or destroy evidence.

“We know that people listen to police scanners, so we oftentimes put this type of sensitive information out through email or teletype that say, ‘Do not transmit over the air,’” Honsal said. “We don’t want the suspect to know we’re looking for him.”

In this case, a "be on the lookout" advisory went out to allied agencies in California, Nevada and Utah, asking officers to look for the suspect vehicle and advising its three passengers were wanted in connection with a triple homicide and Johnson should be considered to be armed with a handgun. Despite the request not to broadcast the information, an agency in Placer County did announce the advisory over its dispatch radio, recordings of which then made the rounds on social media.

Meanwhile, around 1:30 p.m. yesterday, Utah Highway Patrol troopers were notified of the ongoing effort to locate the Highlander and its passengers. About an hour and a 15 minutes later, troopers spotted the vehicle and “put a plan in place to safely stop” it and take its occupants into custody, according to a UHP press release, calling for an emergency response team and readying a helicopter if backup should be needed.

“A traffic stop was initiated and the vehicle refused to stop,” the press release states. “The vehicle’s tires were spiked shortly thereafter.”

When the vehicle came to a stop, Johnson was arrested, Keener was taken into custody on an unrelated Humboldt County warrant and Sanchez Johnson was detained for questioning, according to the release.

Honsal said officers constantly work to balance transparency and keeping the public informed with the potential of harm to an ongoing investigation. In this case, he said they did not have any information to indicate there was an ongoing threat to local residents and the balance tipped in favor of not releasing the suspect’s identity or whereabouts while they tried to bring him in to custody.

At this point, Honsal said investigators have no evidence that Keener or Sanchez Johnson were involved in or present at the time of the homicides but that they “are investigating their roles after the homicides.”

“We take aiding and abetting very seriously, so we want to know through our investigation how they may have aided and abetted Mr. Johnson in his escape,” Honsal said.

Autopsies on the victims in the case are scheduled to be performed today, Honsal said, but added they did appear to have died by “gunshot wounds.”

Honsal said he’s grateful for the cooperation and hard work of his and allied agencies’ investigators and evidence technicians, many of whom worked 24 to 36 hours straight to get an arrest in the case, as well as the cooperation of community members who came forward with valuable information.

“The first 24 hours of this investigation were just crucial,” Honsal said. “The reason we were able to get this information and develop it into an arrest warrant so quickly is because of the cooperation from the Bear River Rancheria, the community and the witnesses who came forward.”

The Loleta Elementary School Facebook page cover photo was switched at 7:03 p.m. Wednesday to a picture of Margarett Lee Moon.

"Heartbroken we are over this tragic loss, Margarett was a beautiful person inside and out," reads the first comment. "Was there for everyone, she had an awesome personality and laugh like no other. Our prayers are with her family."
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Thursday, February 11, 2021

Suspect in Bear River Triple Homicide Arrested

Posted By on Thu, Feb 11, 2021 at 3:04 PM

Humboldt County Major Crimes Task Force at the scene. - HCSO
  • HCSO
  • Humboldt County Major Crimes Task Force at the scene.
An 18-year-old has been arrested in Utah on suspicion of murder in the deaths of three people at a home on the  Bear River Band of the Rohnerville Rancheria Reservation.

Loleta resident Mauricio Eduardo Johnson is being held on a no-bail warrant.

According to a news release, the sheriff’s office investigation “determined two vehicles associated with Johnson to be traveling in the State of Utah” and contact was made with law enforcement agencies in the area.

“At approximately 2 p.m., law enforcement located the two vehicles traveling on I-80 in Tooele County, Utah,” the HCSO release states. “One involved vehicle yielded, and a female subject was detained. The second involved vehicle failed to yield, and a short pursuit ensued. Law enforcement deployed a spike strip, disabling the vehicle.”

Johnson was in the second vehicle with Von Eric Keener, who was also taken into custody on a parole warrant.

The victims have been identified as Nikki Dion Metcalf, 40, Margarett Lee Moon, 40, and Shelly Autumn Mae Moon, 16, Two other juveniles who were in the home were not physically injured and have been placed in safe custody, according to the sheriff’s office.

Deputies were call to the scene on the 200 block of Carroll Road a little after 8 a.m. Wednesday and found two of the victims dead and another with serious injuries, who later died after being taken to the hospital. The investigation is continuing.

Read the HCSO release below:
The suspect in the homicide of three Bear River residents has been taken into custody in Utah. The suspect has been identified as 18-year-old Mauricio Eduardo Johnson of Loleta. Johnson will be held on a no-bail warrant for charges of murder. Through the course of their investigation, Humboldt County Sheriff’s Investigators determined two vehicles associated with Johnson to be traveling in the State of Utah. Sheriff’s Investigators contacted the Utah Highway Patrol and the Tooele County Sheriff’s Office for assistance in apprehending Johnson. At approximately 2 p.m., law enforcement located the two vehicles traveling on I-80 in Tooele County, Utah. One involved vehicle yielded, and a female subject was detained. The second involved vehicle failed to yield, and a short pursuit ensued. Law enforcement deployed a spike strip, disabling the vehicle. Inside the vehicle, law enforcement located Johnson and Von Eric Keener, age 46. Keener was taken into custody on a parole warrant. Johnson was taken into custody on a warrant for murder. The female is still detained as of this release with criminal charges anticipated. This is still a very active investigation and more information will be released when available. The Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office would like to thank the Utah Highway Patrol and the Tooele County Sheriff’s Office for their assistance in the apprehension of Johnson. Anyone with information about this case or related criminal activity is encouraged to call the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office at (707) 445-7251 or the Sheriff’s Office Crime Tip line at (707) 268-2539.
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Sunday, January 31, 2021

Task Force Reports Finding Assault Weapon, Guns, Fentanyl in Eureka Bust

Posted By on Sun, Jan 31, 2021 at 8:17 PM

Weapons and drugs reportedly seized from the hotel room of Joseff Gene Greek. - SUBMITTED
  • Submitted
  • Weapons and drugs reportedly seized from the hotel room of Joseff Gene Greek.
The Humboldt County Drug Task Force arrested two San Francisco men at a Eureka hotel today as a part of a fentanyl investigation after they reported finding a small arsenal, drugs and bags of blood spattered clothing.

The agents raided the motel room of Joseff Gene Greek, 34, this morning and took him and Dale Michael Melvin, 24, into custody after after reportedly finding equipment consistent with "manufacturing assault weapons, pistols, and unregistered firearms," as well as an assault rifle, multiple handguns, silencers, high-capacity magazines and large amounts of ammunition, according to a press release. Agents also reported finding 3 ounces of fentanyl and 6 ounces of methamphetamine, as well as two garbage bags filled with clothing covered in "blood spatter."

"It is unknown how these clothes became in this condition," the release states. "The clothes were seized as potential evidence in other crimes."

According to the press release, Greek and Melvin were booked into jail on suspicion of weapons and possession narcotics for sale.

For more information, see the press release copied below. And for more on why local police fear the spread of fentanyl, see past Journal coverage here.

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Saturday, January 30, 2021

CHP Investigating Fatal Fernbridge Drive Crash as Possible DUI

Posted By on Sat, Jan 30, 2021 at 11:53 AM

The California Highway Patrol has arrested a 25-year-old woman after a fatal head-on collision on Fernbridge Drive at about 1:15 this morning.

According the CHP, Tiannah Ruvalcaba, 25, of Phillipsville, was driving her 2006 Honda Civic  northbound on Ferndbridge drive as a 1988 Ford Mustang approached heading southbound.

"For unknown reasons, one of the vehicles crossed over the broken yellow line separating the lines and the vehicles collided head-on," a CHP press release states. "The driver of the Mustang suffered major injuries as a result of the collision and was pronounced deceased by emergency medical personnel on scene."

The driver of the Mustang's identity is being withheld until next of kin can be notified of their death.

Ruvalcaba suffered major injuries in the crash and was taken to St. Joseph hospital for treatment, according to the release. She was also arrested on suspicion of misdemeanor driving under the influence as the CHP investigates impairment as a contributing factor to the collision.

Read the full CHP press release here.
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Friday, January 29, 2021

Former Middle School Teaching Assistant Arrested for Alleged Sexual Abuse of a Child

Posted By on Fri, Jan 29, 2021 at 2:59 PM

Matthew Oliver Gibson - FORTUNA POLICE DEPT.
  • Fortuna Police Dept.
  • Matthew Oliver Gibson
This morning the Fortuna Police Department arrested former Toddy Thomas Middle School teaching assistant Matthew Oliver Gibson of McKinleyville on suspicion of sexual abusing a child.

According to a press release, Gibson was a teaching assistant in the 2017-2018 school year and helping with the after-school program at the Fortuna school when he allegedly sexually abused a student. Gibson's employment ended in 2018 and was not working for the school at the time of his arrest.

As soon as the allegations were made to FPD earlier this month, detectives and the school's resource officers began investigating and "worked to establish and corroborate facts associated with the allegations," which led to Gibson’s arrest this morning, according to the release.

Gibson was booked into jail on suspicion of having committed numerous sexual assault offenses, including rape, the continuous sexual abuse of a child, forcible acts of sexual penetration and lewd and lascivious acts by force.

The case remains under investigation and FPD asks anyone with additional information to come forward.

Read the full press release below.

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Wednesday, January 27, 2021

HCSO Investigating Death on Bell Springs Road

Posted By on Wed, Jan 27, 2021 at 4:47 PM

The Humboldt County Sheriff's Office is investigating the death of a gunshot victim found in his vehicle on Bell Springs Road near Island Mountain Road.

Sheriff's Deputies found Richard Grayson Drewry, 85, of Garberville in a vehicle with a gunshot wound, after trying life-saving efforts Drewry succumbed to his injuries and died.

The manner of his death is still under investigation and his autopsy is scheduled for later this week.

Anyone who may have seen Drewry or his vehicle, a 2010 Ford Explorer with California License Plate Number PHOODIS, is asked to contact the Sheriff's office at 445-7251 and reference case number 202100446.

Anyone with information about this case can also contact the Sheriff’s Office Crime Tip Line at 268-2539.

Read the full press release below. 

Bell Springs Road Death Investigation

On Jan. 26, 2021, at about 10:45 a.m., Humboldt County Sheriff’s deputies were dispatched to the area of Bell Springs Road near Island Mountain Road for the report of a gunshot victim.

Upon arrival, deputies located an elderly male gunshot victim inside a vehicle parked along the roadway. Deputies performed lifesaving efforts on the victim, however, the man succumbed to his injuries on scene.

The victim was later identified as 85-year-old Richard Grayson Drewry of Garberville. Drewry’s autopsy is scheduled for later this week.

Drewry’s manner of death has not been determined at this time and the case is still under investigation.

Drewry’s vehicle is described as a blue 2010 Ford Explorer with California License Plate Number PHOODIS. Sheriff’s Investigators ask that anyone who may have seen Drewry or his vehicle in the hours prior to his death to contact our office at (707) 445-7251 and reference case number 202100446.

Anyone with information about this case can also contact the Sheriff’s Office Crime Tip Line at (707) 268-2539.

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Friday, January 22, 2021

Lawson Civil Trial Pushed Back

Posted By on Fri, Jan 22, 2021 at 6:29 AM

Charmaine Lawson dabs her eyes before addressing the crowd at a vigil held for her son at Humboldt State University in 2019. - MARK MCKENNA
  • Mark McKenna
  • Charmaine Lawson dabs her eyes before addressing the crowd at a vigil held for her son at Humboldt State University in 2019.
The trial date for Charmaine Lawson's civil lawsuit alleging the city of Arcata violated her constitutional rights by inadequately and incompetently investigating the 2017 stabbing death of her son has been pushed back to late this year.

The case — in which Lawson alleges racism and discrimination contributed to the city's "deliberately indifferent" policies, practices, customs, training and supervision related to the investigation into Humboldt State University sophomore David Josiah Lawson's April 15, 2017, stabbing death at an off-campus party — had been scheduled to go to trial this summer. Both sides have agreed to a continuance after the home of lawson's lead attorney — Kyndra Miller — burnt down in September during a fire in Sonoma County.

"Ms. Miller's primary case files and notes for this matter were destroyed," reads the order granting the continuance. "In order to permit plaintiff's counsel sufficient time to recreate the necessary case files and to recover from personal hardship caused to her by the catastrophic Glass Fire, counsel for the parties have met and conferred, and have agreed to modify the pre-trial case schedule and date for commencement of trial."

The city of Arcata has denied wrongdoing in the case and Lawson's homicide remains unsolved. The trial is now slated to begin Nov. 29.

Meanwhile, a civil case brought against the city by Kyle Zoellner, the man who was arrested at the scene of Lawson's stabbing and charged with his murder only to see the case dismissed after a judge found insufficient evidence to hold him to stand trial, is scheduled for a pivotal hearing next month. Zoellner has alleged the city violated his constitutional rights, arrested him without probable cause and falsified police reports. The city has denied the allegations and the court is slated to hear a motion to dismiss the complaint Feb. 25. 
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